AP Sports Writer
MELBOURNE, Australia — The countless records and accolades accumulated over a long and illustrious career don’t in any way diminish Roger Federer’s satisfaction when he sets yet another benchmark.
Federer became the first man to win 300 Grand Slam singles matches when he beat Grigor Dimitrov, a player formerly dubbed “baby Fed” for the likeness of their styles, in the third round of the Australian Open on Friday.
The 34-year-old Federer already tops many “most of” lists in men’s tennis — from the number of major titles won (17) to the number of consecutive Grand Slam tournaments contested (65). Yet he still gets a thrill from the numbers.
“It’s very exciting, I must tell you,” Federer told the crowd following his 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Dimitrov.
He compared the latest milestone to his 1,000th win in tour-level matches, which he sealed 12 months ago in Brisbane. “It was a big deal for me.”
Federer is now 67 wins ahead of No. 2 and long-retired Jimmy Connors in terms of Grand Slam singles wins, so the mark is safe for a while.
“It’s not something I ever aimed for but when it happens, it’s very special,” he said. “You look deeper into it, where it’s all happened and how. So it’s very nice.”
Federer’s next aim is to break a Grand Slam title drought that dates back to Wimbledon 2012. He reached two major finals in 2015, losing them both to Novak Djokovic, who has replaced him as the most dominant man in the draw. He could meet Djokovic in the semifinals.
Djokovic took care of the man who ended Federer’s run in the third round here last year, the Swiss star’s worst run at the Australian Open since 2001.
The No. 1-ranked Djokovic needed only 25 minutes to win the first set against No. 28-seeded Andreas Seppi but had a tougher time in the next two, saving two set points in the tiebreaker before winning 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (6). The five-time Australian Open champion was playing at the same time as Serena Williams, a six-time Australian Open winner, so he shuffled over to Margaret Court Arena.
He noted how he liked the renovation — the No. 2 stadium has had a roof installed since his last outing there.
“I played a quality player who took out Federer last year here and who has been on the tour for many years,” Djokovic said. “It was a great test. It was a physical match. I’m just glad I got through.”
After extending a streak of making the fourth round or better at every major since a third-round exit at the 2009 French Open, Djokovic will play No. 14 Gilles Simon in the Round of 16. Federer will play David Goffin.
Williams raced to a 6-1, 6-1 win in 45 minutes over 18-year-old Russian Daria Kasatkina on Rod Laver Arena to set up a fourth-round match with Margarita Gasparyan, whom she beat early at Wimbledon last year.
If the fourth-round results go on rankings, she’ll meet No. 5 Maria Sharapova in a quarterfinal match that will feature both of last year’s finalists. While Williams’ form has been good, it hasn’t drawn quite the same attention as her bright yellow crop top and pleated mini-skirt.
“I just wanted to push the envelope again, just bring pop culture to tennis, kind of make it really fun,” she said. “It’s definitely not built for warmth, but it’s built for speed.”
Sharapova had a milestone victory when she beat Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-0 to record her 600th win at tour level, becoming the 17th and only fourth active women’s player to reach the mark.
“I think it’s a proud number,” the 2008 champion and four-time Australian Open finalist said. She next plays No. 12 Belinda Bencic.
No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska advanced to a fourth-rounder against Anna-Lena Friedsam, who beat Roberta Vinci — the Italian player who ended Williams’ bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2015.
Also progressing were No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro and Russian-born Australian Daria Gavrilova, who held off No. 28 Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 4-6, 11-9.
The home crowd couldn’t quite lift No. 29 Nick Kyrgios, who was distracted by the noise and upset with the umpire in his late-night, four-set loss to No. 6 Tomas Berdych, a two-time semifinalist.
No. 12 Marin Cilic also lost but Kei Nishikori — whom Cilic beat in the 2014 U.S. Open final — advanced over No. 26-seeded Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and will next play 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
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